Khalwa (Arabic for “seclusion”) in a natural setting was required of all dervishes, who might spend up to forty days in isolation as part of the requirements of the Path. In the outdoor gathering depicted here, the tall hat worn by some members of the group identifies them as Sufis. It is distinguished by its vertical grooves, which typically number twelve, referencing the twelve imams believed by Shica Muslims to be the rightful successors to the prophet Muhammad. Variations on the hat also indicate ranks within a dervish order; the more senior mystics, for example, wrap lengths of cloth around their caps to form a turban. Sufi dervishes were a popular artistic subject in seventeenth-century Safavid Iran, when single-page drawings and paintings were collected as a newly affordable and respectable art form.
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CaptionA Gathering of Dervishes, mid-17th century or later. Ink and light color wash on paper, Image: 9 1/16 x 5 7/8 in. (23 x 14.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, 35.1522
CreditBrooklyn Museum Collection
DimensionsImage: 9 1/16 x 5 7/8 in. (23 x 14.9 cm); Sheet: 9 1/2 x 6 3/8 in. (24.1 x 16.2 cm)